Monday, July 8, 2013

Social media bringing people together during tragedy

This past year has been filled with natural disasters, tragedies, and horrific events. From the tornados in Oklahoma and destruction of Hurricane Sandy, to the shootings in Newtown and the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the United States has faced a plethora of hardships and heartaches.

Although all of these occurrences have been unique and different in their own ways, Melissa Monahan, Senior VP at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, has noticed a new similarity among all of them. Each catastrophe was rapidly discussed on social media and demonstrated people's dependence on one another through their desire to be a part of the conversation. 

When disaster strikes, people immediately post their firsthand accounts of the event or repost what others have said. These types of accounts occur in real time and allow people to have an updated feed as to what is going on. People can then post their own condolences and concern for the victims. Monahan agrees that this represents "something good springing from something awful" because people feel the need to support one another.

Monahan then goes on to say that she feels that the onset of things like Twitter has filled a void once experienced by humankind. Previous to social media, a person could watch the news and receive live updates on what was happening. Now, however, it is possible to actually read through people's thoughts and see firsthand that others are feeling the same distress or feelings that you are feeling. It can put a person at ease during something so horrific and that is an amazing thing. Monahan concludes that social media breaks down barriers because people can be connected whether or not they are from the same ethnic background or country.

For PR professionals, Monahan mentions a few tips to keep in mind for social media etiquette when a disaster occurs:

  • Turn off any auto/scheduled tweets meant to promote a product.
  • Do not use humor in your tweets because it can be misinterpreted.
  • Do not make it political.
  • If you are going to do something for the victims, do it selflessly and not to get PR. 

Ultimately, social media is a representation of collective humanity. It brings us together in times of tragedy and can even tell us if our loved ones are safe and secure. In a world that is so complex, it is amazing that something as new as social media can have such a big impact on our lives by bringing us together and causing us to depend wholeheartedly on complete strangers.

To read the full Bulldog Reporter article by Melissa Monahan, click here

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